Les Misérables

120px-Film-stripAnother quick review following another rushed cinema trip around work and baby duties. Friends had been giving it good to better feedback, so we opted for the big budget Hollywood version of the Schonberg and Boublil musical classic.

Les Misérables (2012)

“Can you hear the people sing?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: parolee goes on the run to turn a new leaf and gets caught up on French Revolution goings-on

See it if you like: actual proper musicals, not just plays with a few songs chucked in

I’ve never seen the stage version though I absolutely adore the CD set I bought about 20 years ago. As such my comparisons are inevitably going to be predominantly based on the audio side of things. On this front it comes off very well indeed, but I’ll get into that a bit more later.

Visually it’s stunning. Huge, impressive sets which seem authentic enough while still maintaining the feel of a stage show. In many of the scenes I could imagine the cast on an actual stage in front of me, but the production values are obviously far greater than any theatre could hope to match.

The opening sequence kicks things off in this manner with scores of men pulling on ropes to haul a stricken ship out of stormy water and into dry dock. You just couldn’t do that in any theatre. A perfect mix of scenery and CGI makes this scene simply enormous.

We’re introduced, at this point, to our two main characters: Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) and the police inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). It’s always a risk when you take someone famous for their acting skills and put them into a role where they have to sing a few words. To take two men known for action flicks and put them in as leads to a film that has about 0.1% spoken dialogue (the rest all being sung) must have involved a lot of auditions or a leap of faith on the part of the director.

On the whole, it’s paid off. Jackman certainly gives the acting performance of his career if his voice doesn’t quite match up to the task, while Crowe plays things a little easier but (on the whole) has the better voice.

Stand-out, though, is Anne Hathaway who plays the downtrodden Fantine. If she was auditioned alongside any of the original stage cast, she’d be up there with the top choices. Add to this an outstanding acting performance and you have one of the best displays of talent on screen I have seen in a long time.

Amanda Seyfried as the older Cosette rounds out the main cast and gives a good performance also. The remaining two well-known names are Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter who provide comic relief as the Thénardiers, a couple of the dodgiest characters you’re ever likely to meet. Both are suitably revolting and fit the parts perfectly.

The remainder of the cast are less well known and/or have performed in the stage show and managed to jump on board this celluloid version. They hold their own against the premium rate cast well, from rugrats like Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche) and Isabelle Allen (young Cosette) to main members like Samantha Barks (Éponine), there isn’t a duffer in the bunch.

It’s a cracking story with highs, lows and a huge amount of passion. The songs are superb, though definitely more “acted” (by which I mean emotionally performed) than the CD version I have. I swear there were a small number of lyrical changes as well – very minor ones – but I could be wrong.

There is always a risk in taking something as hugely well known as this from one medium to another, and in many cases the simple expedient of chucking money at it results in a complete mess. This, however, is far from it. Big, glorious, and hugely emotional it’s as good a film version as could ever be imagined.

I know some people won’t like it (and didn’t), but I really did. I’d still love to go and see it on stage, I’m sure I will one day, but this will tide me over in the meantime. Hell, I think I’m going to dig out the CDs and pop them in the car. It’ll make a change from the Cavalera Conspiracy track that came on the stereo when we left the cinema!

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That Moment…

Misty all snuggled up
Misty all snuggled up (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

…when the screaming banshee you’ve been battling with all day finally falls asleep and you remember that the snoozing bundle you hold in your arms is the most precious and amazing thing you’ve ever encountered.

This lasts until she wakes up screaming again, around the time you are just drifting off yourself.

[please note – this post is about the daughter, the photo is of our cat. Those who cannot tell the difference should not, at this moment at least, consider parenthood]

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Translating the “WAAAAHHH”s #27

Just to give you an idea of what your baby is really saying when all you think is that they’re screaming their head off for no apparent reason.

You: No, you can’t have it.

Baby: But I want it!

You: No. No. Daddy’s.

Baby: WANT!

You: OK, you can hold it. But it’s not for eating.

Baby: As if I’d listen to you.

You: There, see? No, not in the mouth!

Baby: I told you I was going to try to eat it. Don’t you listen to me? Dude, I’ll try to eat anything.

You: You can’t eat a banana with the skin still on, silly.

Baby: Who are you calling silly? I’m a baby. I don’t know any different. This thing tastes horrible, by the way. Who lets a baby stick a damn unpeeled banana in their mouth? You’re the idiot.

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UKIP – are they all racist and homophobic?

UK Independence Party
UK Independence Party – Hatred R Us? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A nice article in the Mirror outing some of the scum in UKIP (a British “UK Independence Party” which originally claimed to have the simple aim to keep the UK out of Europe), including some senior party members.

Douglas Denny from the Bognor Regis branch had the following to say about gay people on the party’s “Private Message Board”:

“I just wish they would keep their ­homosexual nature and practices to ­themselves and stop trying to ram it down my throat telling me they are ‘normal’ when they are not.”

He then complained to the Mirror, who published his comments, by saying: “Private forums and private posts should stay private.”

This raises several points I would like to make:

  • As well as being a homophobe, he has a wonderful ability to pick the right words to make it so easy to lampoon him. “…ram it down my throat”, indeed! Priceless.
  • I have never had a gay person try to convince me to “convert” or in any way try to change my mind about what is a private thing. This is because, on the whole, gay people don’t do this! Unlike certain organisations (usually churches) that try to convince gay people that they’re mentally screwed up and try to “fix” them, gay rights activities are pretty much limited to pride marches and the like which are a simple means of saying “We’re proud of who we are and happy to be that way, just leave us the hell alone to do what we want in privacy.” The only reason gay people try to shove anything (figuratively!) down anyone else’s throat is in reaction to being vilified by small-minded dick-weasels like Mr Denny.
  • Mr Denny has less concept of privacy on the internet than many 12 year olds that I teach. Claiming that a “private forum should be private” is akin to saying that “if I am chatting to my friends in the pub then I shouldn’t be held accountable for anything that a passer-by could overhear”. If you put it on the internet, don’t expect it to be in the least bit private. Ever. Keep your hate speech to lamp-lit conversations in little run-down houses with the curtains drawn where it belongs.

And I’m not even going to start on the likes of Dr Julia Gasper who reckons that gays are also more likely to want to engage in bestiality. Frankly, looking like her, the only chance she has of getting lucky is to find someone with a predilection for bulldogs with facial injuries.

Or the other member (un-named) who thinks that black people are more likely to be schizophrenic because they smoke more weed.

These people got 16% of the vote last time out? Come on, they’re so utterly hate-filled that even the Tories don’t want to partner up with them. That should speak for itself. When the leader of a party so self-centred as the Conservatives has a leader who labels you as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”, you really should just give up.

Mind you, as a nation we can’t really hold out heads up high. I think we still have two elected members of the European Council who are also in the BNP. How the hell did that happen?

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Glasgow Council : FAIL

Next to our house us a bit of “conservation land” upon which are a handful of trees. One of those trees was cut down by tree fellers (by which I mean people who cut down trees, not a trio of Irishmen… I’ll let you think on that for a while) a few weeks ago. It’s neighbour is stretching one of its limbs out quite a distance to the point where it is now overhanging our roof and risking causing damage to our tiles.

For those who don’t know, conservation land is protected and Joe Public can’t just go marching in with an axe to get rid of any problems, so we rang the council to ask if they could help. It’s their responsibility to sort these things out. Gillian spoke to one of their staff on the phone today:

Council: Hi, so you say there’s an overhanging tree next to your house which is causing problems and it’s in a conservation area?

Gillian: Yes, that’s right.

Council: Only there aren’t any conservation areas near your house.

Gillian: Actually, there is. From where I’m sat I can see the council-labelled sign which warns people walking onto it that it’s a conservation area.

Council: Well, it’s not on my map.

Gillian: So does this mean that I can just grab a saw and cut the branch off?

Council: NO! Absolutely not!

Gillian: Why not?

Council: Because it might be in a conservation area.

Gillian: But you just said it wasn’t. Is there a chance that your map is wrong?

Council: No, not at all. They’re all very up to date [aside – the land’s been conservation designated for at least ten years since these houses were built and likely for a long time beforehand]

Gillian: So it’s not in a conservation area as far as you can tell?

Council: That’s right.

Gillian: So I can just take a saw to it?

Council: No!

Gillian: OK, so you’ll send someone to sort it?

Council: No, we’d only do that if it was in a conservation area.

Gillian: …

Council: I’ll have to go to speak to someone and call you back.

I await that call hugely.

The call reminds me of one I shared with Orange Internet’s “technical help” line when I worked in France. We kept having our internet cut and I enquired as to whether we were hitting a download limit.

Apparently there were no limits… but we were downloading too much. So what was the limit so that we could avoid downloading too much? There are no limits. But there must be otherwise why is the internet being cut? Because you’re downloading too much. OK, so how much is too much? What’s the limit? There is no limit.

That conversation went on for fifteen minutes. FIFTEEN. I have witnesses.

And we never did find out what the limitless limit was.